”In 1956, my father [Gustavo Martinez] and his brother—my tìo Arturo—decided that they had this dream, and that dream was Canada,” Amanda Martinez tells the audience as she opens her evening show at the Meadowvale Theatre. In the minutes that follow, Martinez recounts the epic saga of her father and uncle’s journey from central Mexico to Toronto—a feat accomplished in 82 days and covering a distance of 5,600 km—on bicycles.
Born to a South African mother and a Mexican father, Martinez’s music is a mélange of Latin jazz and flamenco influences. Her songs—written mostly in Spanish—captivate the predominantly English-speaking audience despite the obvious language barrier. I suspect that the absolute captivation of the audience is due to her rich voice; listening to her sing reminds me of the same imposingly resonant quality characteristic of Karen Carpenter’s voice—an emotive and sonorous sound that is remarkably soothing.
Martinez boasts a sizeable repertoire of music, having released three albums since 2006: Sola, Amor, and Mañana. She performs a selection from each album during the show.
One of her songs, “Hasta Que Pueda”, transfixes me, and for the few minutes that her voice carries over the plaintive strumming of the guitar, I lose sense of my surroundings and become entirely captivated. She dances and sways to the music, and watching her is mystifying.
My favourite part of the performance is when she steps down from the stage and dances with some of the audience members. Watching such a lively exchange brings a smile to my face, since it’s such a contrast to the usual monotony of everyday life as well as most performances, where actors and musicians remain onstage. The enchantment, however, is broken as the last chords play and the song slowly recedes, and Martinez returns to the stage.
Martinez doesn’t hesitate as she starts the next song.
“[‘Tómalo’] is about following your dreams, and funnily enough, I co-wrote it with my dad,” she says, trying her best to bridge the language barrier between her songs and the audience with a description of the song beforehand. Martinez rattles off Spanish sentences in rapid-fire succession when she realizes that some Spanish speakers are present. I struggle to follow the exchange between the audience member and Martinez. I realize that I really should have paid more attention in high school Spanish class.
However, one does not need to be fluent in Spanish to understand the deep sense of urgency embedded in the lyrics. You can hear it through the fast, driving rhythm of “Tómalo” accompanied by the sharp notes of the trumpet.
I leave the show with a positive impression. Martinez sounds just as good live—if not better—than she does on her recordings.